"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in"
After the utter disaster against St. John's last week, a lot of folks believed that the Cards had used up all their chances and were destined for the N.I.T. No way were they going to beat the #3 team in the country on the road after getting embarrassed by a Big East bottom-feeder by 20. The Cards showed no heart or effort against the Johnnies, so it was going to be more of the same against the 'Cuse. Right? The Cards were 15-10, 1-6 on the road, carrying multiple god-awful losses at home, and had zero notable wins to speak of. Fans were looking for answers and blaming everyone but Denny Crum himself for the poor performance.
Yet, like the famous Michael Corleone quote in Godfather III that Silvio Dante used to imitate to get a laugh from Tony on The Sopranos, the Cards pulled everyone back in. Just when almost all hope had been abandoned the Cards go into the Carrier Dome, come away with a victory, and bring back some optimism. Bracket-nerd Joe Lunardi said they were out of the dance, now they are in. Doug Gottlieb took some time out from stealing credit cards and calling Louisville a "bit-player" to sing praises to the Cards for their 66-60 victory. Fans who were ready to part ways with Coach Pitino (aka morons) now look at him salivating like a UK fan watching the John Wall dance on YouTube for the 76,645th time. Kind of funny how one game can make people do a complete 180 with their opinion. I've been called the biggest Cardinal apologist out there and I even thought things looked bleek for any March Madness festivities.
However awesome the victory on Sunday was, if the Cards don't take care of business down the home stretch it will be all for naught. Notre Dame, UCONN, & Marquette are fighting for their post-season lives. Louisville plays the latter two on the road where there record is still a dismal 2-6. Syracuse will be looking for revenge is the season finale and Georgetown has always played Pitino coached teams tough. Sprinkle in a trap game with DePaul and the terrain is looking rough in the next few weeks. As we have found out with the Cards' performance with big leads, nothing is guaranteed in such a competitive conference.
Pitino's troops will take this victory one of two ways: 1. They use it as a spring board to rejuvenate a team that looked on the brink of surrender or 2. They let the victory get to their ego and play over-confident. There is no in-between. Following with a home game should help. The Freedom Hall faithful can sense a team that is playing with a victory-hangover and will let the squad know as soon as the turn south is sniffed.
Even before the New year turned, anyone around the Louisville program pointed to the game at the Carrier Dome as one the Cards desperately needed to make up for some early-season slip-ups. They took care of business there. In the coming weeks they can avenge the bad losses even more with a few more good wins. The great thing about it is the Cards are now worthy of post-season conversation again. Something they couldn't say after the St. John's loss.